Mental health challenges represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK with one in four people experiencing a mental health issue during their life.
In the workplace, across all sectors in the UK, stress accounts for 35 per cent of work related health cases. This problem is even more acute for those in financial services, a rewarding but challenging industry, where Health and Safety Executive statistics show that jobs are 44 per cent more likely to lead to stress-related illnesses than the average UK occupation.
As an industry, financial services attracts professionals who want to tackle the biggest problems and reach the highest levels of professional service. Still, we also know that there are trends that can make life stressful for our employees. According to Mercer’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study, financial services loses 24.9 days per employee a year – second only to healthcare, which loses 26.6 days – due to the impacts of stress. This challenge requires employers to consider and take steps to minimise the knock on effects of staff absences on the performance of their businesses.
Clearly then, it is essential we address not only the strong social reasons for managing mental health issues, but also the important business case for investing in the mental wellbeing of our employees. Every year, according to the OECD, the UK economy loses as much as £70 billion, around 4.5 per cent of GDP, due to mental health issues. UK-based employers lose £26 billion per year, an average of £1,035 per employee.The health challenge underpinning these figures threatens our ability as businesses to maximise our performance and manage risk as well as attract and retain the sharpest talent.
In London, talent is a core reason why we are among the leading financial services centres in the world. A recent study from Deloitte found that London is the “high skills capital of the world” and noted that the city’s ability to attract and develop leaders makes it the most internationally diverse business community, with leaders from 95 nationalities.
If we agree that talent is a key differentiator in our city, then nothing could be more important than enabling the more than 350,000 financial services professionals in the UK to thrive at work and in their personal lives.
Still, research from the Priory Group found that 71 per cent of people fear a negative response if they tell their employer about a mental health condition. Nobody wins in this environment, but financial services firms also stand to lose more than we currently concede if we do not face up to the challenge that mental health poses.
Empowering our employees to bring their best selves to work means caring for their whole selves. Recently, the British Bankers’ Association indicated that protecting the physical and mental wellbeing of employees was “a top priority” for its members, many of whom have introduced in-house counsellors, mental health courses, exercise programmes and more comprehensive mental healthcare plans.
At BNY Mellon, emotional wellbeing is one of the four main pillars of a global wellbeing strategy which we will launch later this year across our global network. This is a further step in our efforts to drive greater openness around mental health and offer our employees the tools and support to proactively and effectively manage their mental health.
I believe tackling this challenge requires the initiation of a more open conversation about mental health across our organisations to ensure we’re hearing and addressing issues as they emerge and providing the support our employees need.
Preventing mental health is at least as important as treating it and we can all be part of the solution. From the board level to the relationships between managers and their direct reports, we must make discussions about mental health unexceptional – a common practice in managing our colleagues’ every day challenges and helping them do their best work.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, I hosted a breakfast last week with leaders of the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA), a collaborative venture supported by City businesses, including BNY Mellon, and two leading UK mental health organisations, Mental Health First Aid and Mind. CMHA’s vision is to help people at all levels in the City of London talk about mental health without fear of stigma its member companies have united around a shared mission tobuild a culture of good mental health for City workers, share best practices and increase mental health understanding.
At our breakfast, I discussed the strong business case around the investments we are making in mental health prevention and the need to share success stories to grow further investments in mental health across our industry. We cannot expect to realise the full potential of our employees and our businesses until we do so.
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